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DOJ reveals a foreign billionaire's plot to funnel large sums of money to U.S. politicians

April 2, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Gilbert Chagoury — a 75-year-old Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire who now lives in Paris — has agreed to pay $1.8 million to “resolve allegations” that he violated U.S. election law by giving “approximately $180,000 to individuals in the United States that was used to make contributions to four different federal political candidates in U.S. elections.”

In a press release released on Wednesday, the DOJ explained, “Chagoury, a foreign national prohibited by federal law from contributing to any U.S. elections, admitted he intended these funds to be used to make contributions to these candidates. He further admitted to making illegal conduit contributions, causing campaign contributions to be made in the name of another individual.”

Anna Massoglia, a reporter for the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website, notes that the DOJ’s press release “did not identify the donors and candidates by name.” Massoglia adds, however, “The amounts in court records match Federal Election Commission contribution records for the joint fundraising committee supporting the 2012 presidential bid of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as well as the campaigns of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and former Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), now a senior adviser at Kelley, Drye & Warren. The names of the recipient committees were first reported by Politico.”

The DOJ’s press release states that its investigation of illegal campaign contributions involved Chagoury and his two of his associates: fellow Paris resident Joseph Arsan and Washington, D.C. resident Toufic Joseph Baaklini.

According to the press release, “Arsan, a physician who worked as an assistant to Chagoury, admitted helping Chagoury reimburse others for contributions to political candidates. In 2014, Arsan — at Chagoury’s direction — wired $30,000 to a third party and indicated, on the wire information form, that the funds were for a ‘wedding gift,’ when he knew or should have known that the funds were reimbursement for making a political contribution to a campaign fund for a federal elected official.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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How the Supreme Court and the right wing found loopholes to erode the decades-old voting rights victories

April 2, 2021 in Blogs

By Independent Media Institute

On March 25, the day President Joe Biden held his first press conference and called bids by Republican state legislators to complicate voting “un-American,” Georgia’s legislature passed, and its Republican governor signed, 2021′s most aggressive rewrite of voting rules. That same day in Texas’ state legislature, a hearing was abruptly halted on a bill with arguably even more obstructive and punitive provisions before the chairs of its Black and Mexican American legislative caucuses were allowed to participate.

The Texas bill’s author and Texas House Elections Committee chair, Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Houston-area Republican, apparently made a procedural mistake—the kind of technicality contained in his bill that would criminalize election officials, poll workers or neighbors who did not precisely follow the bill’s new restrictions for absentee voting and its expanded rights for political party observers. The bill barred election officials from removing intentionally unruly partisans.

“This package of bills, along with many others being considered in the Texas House, could have the greatest impact on voting rights since the Jim Crow era,” said Charlie Bonner, spokesman for MOVE Texas, a nonprofit championing voting rights for young adults, at a Zoom briefing after the hearing’s halt. “Unlike Chair Cain, we don’t seek to criminalize those simple mistakes that often happen and will put many people, particularly Black and Brown voters, in jail.”

The interruption didn’t stop the Texas bill. Another public hearing took place on April 1. As in Georgia and other battleground states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania—bills to curtail voting options and add unnecessary bureaucracy for election officials are moving through statehouses. But their momentum is having an opposite effect in the nation’s capital; it is underscoring a moral imperative and political will among almost all Democrats to pass history-making election and voting reform.

“It is an apocryphal moment, one of those like [before] the 1964 Civil Rights Act, one of those moments where you just feel the change gathering in Washington, in addition to analyzing it,” said Norman Eisen, a longtime anti-corruption policy analyst who led a Brookings Institution briefing on …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Dalip Singh Saund assumes office as the first Asian American and the first Sikh elected to Congress

April 2, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 3, 1957 Dalip Singh Saund is sworn in as the congressional representative of California’s 29th district. Known to many as “Judge,” and also nicknamed “the Peacemaker,” he is the first Asian, first Indian American, first Sikh and first follower of a non-Abrahamic religion to be elected to the United States Congress.

Born and raised in Punjab while India was under British rule, Saund attended the University of Punjab and was active in the independence movement led by Mohandas Gandhi. He enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley in 1920, earning a PhD in mathematics four years later. He married and moved to a ranch in Westmoreland, California, getting a friend to sign the deed for him in order to circumvent a state law that prohibited Asians from owning land. His time as a farmer, witnessing the struggles of his neighbors during the Great Depression, made him a fan of the New Deal and a lifelong Democrat. Saund organized in favor of allowing Indians to become naturalized American citizens, which Congress finally approved in 1946. Three years later, Saund became a citizen, and the following year he ran for a judgeship. Despite facing persistent racism—one reporter asked him if he would supply turbans to all those who entered his court—he won by 13 votes.

In 1956, Saund ran for his home district’s open congressional seat. Despite a legal challenge from his Democratic primary opponent, who unsuccessfully argued that Saund had not been a citizen long enough to serve in Congress, Saund won the nomination and defeated famous female aviator Jacqueline Cochran Odlum for the seat. He credited his victory to the connections he had made in the district, particularly to small farmers and small business owners. He served three terms in Congress, where he became known as a champion of small farmers and civil rights legislation and worked to improve the United States’ relations with Mexico as well as his native India.

READ MORE: Asian American Milestones: A Timeline

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Source: HISTORY

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Vicki Draves and Sammy Lee become the first Asian Americans to win an Olympic gold medal for the U.S.

April 2, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

On August 6, 1948, American diver Vicki Draves wins gold at the London Olympics. Two days later, her good friend and fellow diver Sammy Lee takes gold as well, making them the first Asian Americans to win Olympic gold medals for the United States.

Draves was the daughter of an English maid and a Filipino chef and musician, while Lee’s parents were of Korean descent and ran what he called “a little chop suey restaurant.” Both grew up in California, where public pools were whites-only and non-whites were only allowed to swim for a brief period one day a week. When he couldn’t use the pool, Lee practiced diving by jumping into a pit full of sand. Draves (nee Manalo) hoped to join the Fairmont Hotel Swimming and Diving Club but was barred due to her race—she eventually joined another club started by the Fairmont’s coach, going by Vicki Taylor to hide her racial identity. Despite these obstacles, Lee and Draves rose to the top of the American diving scene, becoming friends in the process. It was Lee who introduced Vicki to Lyle Draves, who became her coach and husband.

Draves recounted turning to Lee and telling him “I can’t do this, Sammy” before her gold-medal dive, to which he responded, “Get up there and do what you are supposed to do.” Getting to the board turned out to be the hard part, as she later remembered: “I sort of sailed through it, and I knew I hit it when I was underwater and I thought, ‘Oh boy, thank you, God.’” Lee’s win two days later was his first of two Olympic golds: four years later, he took gold in Helsinki, becoming the first man to win consecutive gold medals for platform diving. Weightlifter Tommy Kono and swimmers Yoshinobu Oyakawa and Ford Konno all won gold as well in 1952, and in the decades that followed many more Asian Americans would make headlines at the Olympics, including Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi and Apolo Ohno.

READ MORE: Asian American Milestones: A Timeline

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Source: HISTORY

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'The Joy Luck Club,' the first major studio movie with an all Asian American, mostly female, cast, premieres

April 2, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

A glass ceiling is smashed on September 8, 1993 with the premiere of The Joy Luck Club, the first major modern Hollywood movie featuring an all Asian American and predominantly female cast. The adaptation of Amy Tan’s 1989 novel received highly favorable reviews and grossed $33 million, making it a landmark moment for Asian Americans in the film industry.

Tan’s novel focuses on four women, all of whom faced hardships in pre-revolutionary China before emigrating to America and raising children in San Francisco, who formed the titular club to play mahjong and swap stories. Their stories are interwoven with those of their children, who have grown up in the United States and have complex relationships with their identities, as well as with their mothers. The screenplay, co-written by Tan and praised by Roger Ebert as “remarkable for its complexity and force,” spans much of the 20th century and depicted the Asian American experience in a way that no major-studio American production ever had.

Before The Joy Luck Club, female Asian characters in American movies had almost always been racist stereotypes, and if Asian characters’ roles were substantial enough, they were often given to white actors. Ming-Na Wen, who starred in the film as June and went on to star in Mulan and other major productions, called it her “green card to Hollywood.” Although it has received some criticism for playing into stereotypes about China and for its portrayal of Asian American men, The Joy Luck Club is still viewed as a turning point for Asian Americans in entertainment. Despite the buzz around the film and the boost that it gave to its cast, it took 25 years for another major motion picture to feature a predominantly female, Asian American ensemble cast: 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians.

READ MORE: How Hollywood Cast White Actors in Caricatured Asian Roles

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Source: HISTORY

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First group of Korean immigrants enter Hawaii

April 2, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 13, 1903, the RMS Gaelic arrives in Honolulu, bringing with it the first Korean immigrants to the United States. The Hawaiian Star calls the 102 newcomers “a possible solution for the problem of labor on plantations,” foreshadowing the difficult lives that await them in the recently-acquired U.S. territory.

As the Star’s framing suggests, early Korean immigration to the United States was largely a product of American planters’ need for cheap labor. The “problem” the paper referenced was sugar and pineapple plantation owners’ difficulties with their mostly-Japanese workers, and their solution had been to send recruiters to Korea. Christian missionaries also stimulated the first wave of Korean immigration to the United States: missionaries Horace Allen and George Herbert Jones had recruited over half of the Koreans aboard the Gaelic from the Naeri Methodist Church near Inchon.

Many of the workers moved on to the Pacific coast of the mainland United States when their contracts were up, and the Korean American diaspora community went on to play an important role in the Korean Independence Movement. The racist Immigration Act of 1924, colloquially known as the Oriental Exclusion Act, put an abrupt end to Korean immigration to the U.S. for a time, but many Koreans still found their way to the U.S. as students. Another wave of Korean immigrants would arrive starting in 1950, most of them fleeing the civil war in their country. Today, there are over 1.8 million Korean Americans, and Koreatowns exist in many U.S. cities—Honolulu’s received official recognition from the State of Hawaii in 2016. January 13 is now recognized nationally as Korean American Day.

READ MORE: Asian American Milestones: Timeline

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Source: HISTORY

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1982 garment workers' strike begins in New York City's Chinatown

April 2, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

Over 20,000 garment workers, almost all of them Asian American women, pack into Columbus Park in New York City’s Chinatown on June 24, 1982. The rally and subsequent march demonstrate the workers’ power to the city and the entire garment industry, delivering a decisive victory for the striking workers.

After the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 did away with a racist quota system that dated back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a number of immigrants from China and Hong Kong made their way to New York. Many of the women who arrived in Chinatown after 1965 found work in the garment industry, where pay was bad and conditions were poor. Workers were paid based on how much they produced, rather than by the hour, which led to constant arguing with management and left many making less than minimum wage. The union representing these workers, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, was majority-Asian, but its leadership remained mostly white and did little to communicate with its Chinese-speaking members. Nevertheless, Katie Quan, a garment worker originally from San Francisco, developed her skills as an organizer, forging bonds with her fellow workers and organizing work stoppages to secure them higher wages.

READ MORE: Asian American Milestones: A Timeline

In 1982, the contractors who served as middlemen between manufacturers and workers refused to renew their contract with the garment workers’ union, asking them to give up some of their medical and retirement benefits in addition to three holidays. Quan quickly began organizing her comrades and drawing media attention to the workers’ cause. Although the contractors, who were for the most part also Chinese, tried to play up their ethnic connection and frame the ILGW as indifferent to its Asian members, the workers stuck together. On June 24th, Quan and her fellow organizers called a strike and drew a crowd of over 20,000 workers to their rally. Their subsequent march through the streets was a show of force, and within a few days nearly every contractor had agreed to sign the union contract.

The strike was a major victory for the garment workers and a turning point for their union, which worked much more closely with its Asian American workers from then on. Many of those involved went on to become labor leaders, including Quan, who later served as vice president of the ILGW and formed the Asian Pacific American Labor …read more

Source: HISTORY

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This quote from Matt Gaetz’s book looks so much worse after his sex scandal blew up

April 2, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

With the U.S. Department of Justice investigating allegations that Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida was sexually involved with a 17-year-old girl — an allegation he has vehemently denied — the far-right GOP congressman’s history is being closely scrutinized. With this new lens, many observers — including The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes — have highlighted old quotes from Gaetz’s book, “Firebrand: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution,” published in September 2020.

Reporting on the book in Vanity Fair on September 14, 2020, journalist Abigail Tracy drew attention to some of the things Gaetz had to say about then-President Donald Trump’s personal life as well as his own. Gaetz, one of Trump’s most bombastic supporters, wrote, “I have an active social life, and it’s probably easier in the era of Trump. We’ve had ‘perfect family man’ presidents before, after all, and many of those men sold out our country, even if their wives were happy the whole time. If politicians’ family lives aren’t what really matter to the voters, maybe that’s a good thing. I’m a representative, not a monk.”

This last line now seems more like a confession than a boast, as multiple reports indicate he has been sexually inappropriate at work and mya have paid women for sex.

Trump, during his presidency, was incredibly popular among far-right White evangelicals like Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, Jr. — which is ironic in light of the fact that, as Tracy noted in Vanity Fair, Trump was a “thrice-married serial adulterer.” And Gaetz, in his book, used the words “fun-loving politician” to describe Trump and indicated that he was cut from the same cloth.

“We’ve got a president now who doesn’t care for puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening,” Gaetz wrote. “He is a lot more direct — even visceral, open, and realistic — about his likes and dislikes. So overall, this is a good time to be a fun-loving politician instead of a stick-in-the-mud.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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The deep mistake both liberals and zealots are making about religion and politics

April 2, 2021 in Blogs

By John Stoehr

It’s Good Friday, a good time to talk about religion and politics. Gallup released a poll Monday showing the number of people belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque is the lowest it’s been since the opinion surveyor started asking in 1937. It’s the first time religious membership has been below 50 percent, according to Gallup.

This news has been met by two perspectives that dominate the national discourse on politics and religion. Though they appear to be at odds, indeed, they are at odds, they are nevertheless mutually reinforcing. In reality, these diametrically opposed views work together to misinform the electorate as to the real nature of the relationship between religion and politics, thus encouraging people to choose sides when they need not choose, thus enabling dangerous people to act in increasingly dangerous ways.

On the one hand are agnostics or non-religious liberals who are either indifferent to religion or hostile to it. These people are always more interested in the politics side of the relationship between politics and religion, and they can be found in virtually all elite press, especially in the op-eds pages. On the other hand are the zealots. Religion is the goal, politics the means. While the liberals think of religion and politics as two things, not so for the zealots. As “the political” was to Nazi philosopher Carl Schmitt,

Just so I’m clear, I side with the non-religious liberals. Every time. What’s maddening, however, is their tendency to magnify the preferred way of seeing the world among the zealots. While the liberals see reasons of their own for why religious membership has declined below the majority for the first time in 80-some years, they have, without (I suspect) meaning to, come to the same dangerous conclusion as the zealots. They have concluded, even celebrated, that America is becoming increasingly secularized.

So much to unpack. First, religious membership is a bad measure of religion. I mean, it used to be a good one, but not anymore. People still attend church occasionally. They still think of themselves as Methodists and whatever. They still celebrate religious holidays; they still honor religious traditions. But the institutions of religion have been in a state of precipitous decay for 20 years the way most other institutions have been.

Even the word “religion” smacks of institutional rot. That has certainly been the sad experience of lay Catholics faced with sex crimes in the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Angry, despondent, and powerless: New report reveals how loyal Trump voters are coping with his loss

April 2, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who has been married to conservative consultant Mary Matalin since 1993, has long said that in order to defeat Republicans, Democrats need to understand where their voters are coming from. That includes Donald Trump supporters, who Carville and fellow Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg examined via some focus groups in March.

Carville and Greenberg are the leaders of Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling/research firm. Although its primary goal is to help Democrats win elections, Democracy Corps sometimes studies GOP voters in order to determine why they vote the way they do — Democracy Corps’ Republican Party Project has been studying trends among the GOP electorate. And in March, Democracy Corps’ used focus groups to compare diehard Trump voters with “non-Trump conservatives and moderates.”

In a March 26 report, Democracy Corps explained, “We conducted focus groups in March with Trump loyalists in Georgia and Wisconsin and Trump-aligned, non-Trump conservatives and moderates in suburban and rural Georgia, Ohio and Wisconsin. It took a long time to recruit these groups because Trump voters seemed particularly distrustful of outsiders right now, wary of being victimized, and avoided revealing their true position until in a Zoom room with all Trump voters — then, they let it all out.”

Democracy Corps found that “the Trump loyalists and Trump-aligned were angry, but also, despondent, feeling powerless and uncertain they will become more involved in politics…. The Trump loyalists and the Trump-aligned are animated about government taking away their freedom and a cancel culture that leaves no place for White Americans and the fear they’re losing ‘their’ country to non-Whites.”

Democracy Corps also found that “Trump loyalists and the Trump- aligned” were “angered most of all by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa” and believe those movements “were responsible for a full year of violence in Democratic cities that put White people on the defensive — and was ignored by the media.”

Meanwhile, Democracy Corps found “the non-Trump conservatives and moderates bloc” to be “marginally smaller but vocal in opposition to Trump’s direction and animated by his alienation of non-Republicans, the extremism, the 2nd Amendment and guns, and role of government and more.”

During the 2020 election, President Joe Biden enjoyed a broad range of support. Everyone from progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City to prominent conservatives like Cindy McCain, former Sen. Jeff Flake …read more

Source: ALTERNET